08 February 2009

The Pink City

We have departed from Jaipur unscathed, but not without some stressful moments.
We arrived by train after a 5 hour (or so) ride from Delhi. They don't seem to inform you of approaching stops, so we had to keep our eyes pealed. As soon as we got off the train we were bombarded with auto rickshaw drivers saying, "Hello? Excuse me? You need a ride? I'll take you! Right this way!" We tried our best to ignore them and find our way to the main gate. We were to meet the driver our couch surfing host, Rama, said he would send for us, "At the main gate". We were confused and disoriented and I didn't see any distinguishing signs for the main gate. We started up some steps that led outside the station and the drivers (still following and barking at us) said, "If someone is picking you up it will be this way!" (which happened to be the way we were going) This was a lie.
We made our way out of the station but saw no one with a sign for us, only more rickshaw drivers yelling at us. At this point, we started to consider what we would do if there was no driver waiting for us. We went back the way we came and eventually found the main gate.
We saw a couple of guys holding signs. One sign said, "Tobias", then 6 or more drivers with no signs said to Riley, "Tobias?! Tobias?!", trying to get us to go with them. Creepy. Finally, we saw our driver with our sign and followed him to the rickshaw.
We quickly noticed that the traffic was much more chaotic then Delhi and it was rush hour.
Our driver didn't speak English. We stopped to pick someone up and then dropped him off. Then we stopped again in front of a flower market. A man with a cellphone said to us, "Rama is just down there waiting". I was still nervous and unsure. We drove down the block and waited while some other guys hung around the rickshaw and made small talk with us. Then, Rama pulled up on his motorcycle. Relief.
We followed him to his home in the rickshaw. When we arrived to his home he lead us inside passed some cows and a bull, through a large room with adjacent doors, up a narrow stairway to the rooftop, across the roof to a door, and then to our guest room.
The room was more than we could have asked for, with a king sized bed, bottled water for us, and a balcony looking over the street, with a view of Tiger Fort high on the hill.
Our time with Rama and his family was certainly memorable: my first Indian toilet, first Indian bath (a bucket of warm water with cup), a ride on a motorcycle- whizzing through the busy traffic-, first cup of Indian chai, getting lost at 10pm in a city of 3 million people, and seeing my fill of forts and palaces, probably for the duration of our journey. =) Above all, Rama and his family, gave us more attention and care than we could have ever imagined (including offering Riley a job in his jewellry store and me a housewife position).
We arrived today in Udaipur (I think about 300km sw of Jaipur). After the uncomfortable overnight train ride, it is a breath of fresh air. A population of only 800,000. It is beautiful and much calmer. Our hotel is $10 a night. It is simple, but all we need. I especially like the rooftop restaurant, with views of the lakes, palaces, and mountains. We will be here for another 3 days and then on to the largest city in India, Mumbai, with another couch surfing host, Rachit. We will be ready when we get off the train.

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